A New Treasure to Pour Over!

I found about a month ago, a collection in the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA that uncovered an entire lost history of the people who lived around Sterlington in the 1830’s. It is the papers of Charles Boliver Sterling, the son of Robert Harris Sterling and Eliza Caroline Morhouse. Remember Robert? He was the one who gunned down Ferdinand Morgan! His brother John T. Sterling founded Sterlington! John and his wife helped raise Charles and most of his best memories are of his uncle John’s plantation Sterlington. His mother Eliza was the daughter of Eleanor Hook and Abraham Morhouse. He was extremely close to his mother’s sisters and spoke of them quite a bit.

The library was good enough to send my a digital copy (for a price of course!) and I have been pouring over it for several days. Charles seemed to have wrote down all that he could remember of his life in an almost stream of consciousness way. I am writing an addendum to Dr. Williams’ Founding Families books to go along with our copy of Volume III so I am citing many things from it in there. If you are interested in the Sterling family this collection is for you!

Charles apparently up and left his clerical job in New Orleans after a falling out with his father and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He eventually went out west where he was involved in the Californial Gold Rush. He died in Sonoma County, CA in 1854 at 28 years old but what he left behind is PRICELESS! I am just amazed at the families he was tied to! Just to name a few: The Sterlings, the Morhouses (he remembered his mother weeping over the death of her brother Charles), The Pattens, the Kings, The Pilchers, Knox, etc… he talks about how the “Island” planters would move into the pine hills of Union Parish to escape the heat of summer. The kids would attend school while they were there! It turns out his father Robert married again and Charles HATED her! I had no clue as to what happened to Robert after the Morgan assassination, but this document opened up everything! He seems to have become a riverboat captain. I wish Charles had talked about the Morgan/Morhouse feud but not a peep. There are further papers of Charles, including a photograph (!!!!) in a seperate Charles Boliver Sterling collection at UC Berkley. Unfortunately, it has copy restrictions. I doubt I will ever go out there and see that, but I would LOVE to pour over it too!

If you are interested in the Sterling family, here are my notes I wrote:

Sterling, John Page 

Child number 1, Robert H. Sterling

Robert’s son, Charles Bolivar Sterling, left behind papers that are now housed at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA.  He relates events in his life and information about his family and growing up in Ouachita Parish in the 1830’s.  The following information (Unless otherwise cited) comes from this collection.  Some of his other papers and photos are housed at the Bancroft Library/University Archives, University of California, Berkeley (BANC MSS C-Y 224, & BANC MSS C-B 339 FILM) but are unavailable for reproduction due to restrictions.  Further Sterling family information is included in those papers according to the online catalog.

Charles recounts the death of his mother when he was around 7 years old.  She was buried “…on the other side of the bayou…”.  Later on in the document he states she died in 1832 and was buried at Sherwood plantation (her brother-in-law Joseph Patten’s place) at Bunches Bend.  He also states, “Mrs. Pilcher (a sister of his mother) was buried here, besides several other relatives, among them little Joseph May Patten Jr., son of my aunt who died only a year since.”

Margaret Daly Sterling passed away in New Orleans, LA at the age of 68 years old on January 11, 1892.  Her obituary appeared in the Times-Picayune January 12, 1892, Page 4, Column 7. 

Children of Robert and Eliza Caroline Morhouse Sterling referred to in Charles’ papers:

  1. John Ferdinand Sterling b.   d. 3 January 1838 in a fire in New Orleans, LA.  He is referred to as being the oldest child and is away at school in Kentucky for most of Charles’ young life.  He was a clerk in a store when he died in the fire. (See the New Orleans Commercial Bulletin, January 6, 1838, Page 2, Col. 2)
  2. Charles Bolivar Sterling b. 1825

The California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences, San Francisco, CA, March 16, 1854, Page 79:


     At the residence of Abel Stewart, Esq., Petaluma Township, Sonoma county, Charles B. Sterling, aged 28 years.  Deceased was a native of Ouachita parish, La.

3. Eleanor Sterling

4. Infant b/d “…infant sister or brother [died] a year or so before Bob’s birth.”

5. Robert J. “Bob” Sterling

Children of Robert and Margaret Daly Sterling referred to in Charles’ papers:

  1.  Laura King Sterling b. 1841
  2. Andrew Jackson Sterling b. 14 January 1843 at 9 pm in New Orleans, LA.
  3. Emerson Sterling is listed in Margaret’s obituary.

Robert Harris Sterling’s obituary, found in the New Orleans Times Picayune of December 12, 1852, Page 2, Column 5 states he died at the age of 56 years old on December 11, at 5 o’clock after a lingering illness.

Child number 5, Samuel Sterling

Charles Bolivar Sterling states in his notes that his uncle, Samuel “Sam” E.B. Sterling, was a riverboat captain who piloted the steamboat “Big Black”.  In 1838 Charles wrote that his uncle had married a young (17 years old) and beautiful girl of Smithland, KY.  Marriage records from Livingston County, KY show Samuel E.B. Sterling married Angelina Berry there on December 20, 1837.  Later in the papers he notes his uncle’s death, “About this period (1840) I heard of the death of my uncle Samuel E.B. Sterling.  I had seen him not long before in fine health. He died at or near Golconda Ill, leaving his affectionate little wife and two children, boys to mourn his loss.  He was a step brother [actually half brother] of my father’s, a son of my Grand Father, John Sterling by his second wife.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s